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Put Down that Glass of Chardonnay, It’s Destroying your Sleep

Updated: Nov 12, 2023

In our fast-paced world, stress, anxiety, and insomnia have become insidious companions for many. Many of us consume alcohol as part of our nightly rituals to decompress and relax but that ritual is like adding fuel to a fire which continues the fatigue > bad sleep > tired but wired/over caffeinated cycle. Perhaps you’ve wondered how alcohol affects your sleep or noticed you sleep better in January while following your New Years health resolutions or while on a health cleanse…

In this blog post, we delve into the science behind alcohol's impact on sleep architecture, particularly its connection to insomnia, poor sleep quality, and fatigue. We will also explore the crucial role of restorative sleep for mental health, memory, concentration, and metabolic well-being. Finally, we'll introduce natural and holistic methods to support rejuvenating sleep, guiding you towards a healthier, well-rested lifestyle. Understanding the Relationship:

It might seem odd that alcohol which makes us feel relaxed and sleepy would harm our sleep, but the science on this is very clear. Alcohol acts as a sedative by increasing the concentration of a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) which slows down nerve impulses in the brain and muscles promoting drowsiness, lowering anxiety levels, and prompting muscle relaxation. The extra GABA that alcohol promotes shifts the balance of sleep phase 1 (deep sleep) and sleep phase 2 (REM sleep) to favor a longer deeper, dreamless phase 1 of our sleep cycle and leaving REM sleep (important for memory consolidation and other important healing processes) short changed. This sleep phase imbalance lasts for many hours while our body works to metabolize the circulating alcohol. Once all the alcohol has been metabolized our brain impulses kick into high gear. This increased activity means more vivid and stressful dreams which often means frequent micro-wakenings which you may or may not recall the next day. Alcohol (especially wine and spirits) acts as a diuretic in our bodies. This means that after the alcohol has been metabolized and you are in a lighter sleep pattern you will wake up to pee 1 or more times at night further reducing your precious sleep. Consuming alcohol is linked to increased snoring and Obstructive Sleep Apnea as it causes the muscles in your mouth and throat to relax too much and temporarily block your ability to breathe, depriving your brain of critical oxygen. Effects on Sleep Quality:

Alcohol has a negative impact on our ability to sleep and regular alcohol consumption causes fragmented or interrupted sleep, affecting sleep quality even if you believe you slept for an adequate duration. Alcohol impairs the brain's ability to regulate sleep patterns, leading to frequent awakenings, lighter sleep, and a reduction in deep sleep in the 2nd half of the night. The consequences are far-reaching, with daytime fatigue, decreased alertness, and diminished cognitive performance becoming commonplace. This daytime fatigue leads many of us to reach for stimulants like sugary snacks and caffeinated drinks that make us wired but still tired. Eventually for many people this leads to consuming alcohol again to sedate us enough to sleep at bedtime. The Importance of Restorative Sleep:

Adequate and restorative sleep is more important than just feeling refreshed in the morning. It is essential for maintaining optimal mental health, memory consolidation, concentration, and metabolic health. Sleep deprivation or poor sleep quality can contribute to increased stress levels, heightened anxiety, and lowered resilience to cope with everyday challenges. Moreover, it affects hormone regulation, metabolism, and weight control, increasing the risk of developing chronic diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular issues.

Natural Solutions for Restful Sleep:

Thankfully, there are numerous natural and holistic methods to support restorative sleep. Establishing rules around alcohol consumption including:

  • Limiting the frequency and quantity of alcoholic drinks

  • Creating a time buffer between alcohol and bedtime to go to bed sober.

  • Taking “vacations from drinking” of 2 weeks or longer throughout the year.

  • Establish and stick to a consistent sleep routine.

  • Maintaining a comfortable sleep environment (check out the Sleep Requirements handout for more support).

  • Utilizing relaxation techniques such as meditation or deep breathing.

  • Select use of natural sleep aids including valerian root, chamomile, passionflower, magnesium and melatonin to promote calmness and tranquility before bedtime.

Finding Restorative Sleep: If you find yourself struggling with insomnia, poor sleep quality, fatigue, or any other related issues, it's time to seek help. I help patients get rejuvenating sleep using highly effective, non-habit-forming natural therapies every day. Call the office at (206) 291-6543 or go online to schedule a visit to discuss your individual formula for a restful night’s sleep. While a glass or 2 of Chardonnay may offer temporary respite from the stresses of the day, it comes at a cost to your sleep quality and overall well-being. Understanding the science behind alcohol's impact on sleep provides a compelling reason to reassess your nightly routine. Prioritizing restorative sleep through natural and holistic methods is not only possible but essential for your mental health, memory, focus, and sanity. Embrace the power of rejuvenating sleep and take the first step towards a healthier, more vibrant life.

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